By JOSEPH KRAUSS
JERUSALEM (AP) — Former President Donald Trump earlier this year lashed out with profanity at Benjamin Netanyahu for congratulating President Joe Biden on his victory in the U.S. election, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.
Trump accused the former Israeli leader of disloyalty, saying he had helped Netanyahu in his own elections by reversing decades of U.S. policy and supporting Israel’s claims to territory seized in war. Trump is still falsely claiming the U.S. election was stolen from him.
In interviews earlier this year with the Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, Trump expressed fury at a video Netanyahu circulated online in which he congratulated Biden.
“Nobody did more for Bibi. And I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi,” Trump said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname, in the remarks published by English language website of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper. “But I also like loyalty… Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake.”
Netanyahu had congratulated Biden more than 12 hours after the election was called and after most other world leaders. Netanyahu did not refer to him as president-elect in the tweet, and followed it up with a post praising Trump.
Trump appeared to be particularly incensed by a video released by Netanyahu on Jan. 20, the day Biden was inaugurated, in which Netanyahu said he and Biden had a “warm personal friendship going back many decades.”
“I haven’t spoken to him since. F—- him,” Trump was quoted as saying.
In a statement released after the remarks were publicized, Netanyahu said that he “greatly appreciates President Trump’s great contribution to the state of Israel and its security.”
Netanyahu said he “also greatly appreciates the importance of the strong alliance between Israel and the United States, so it was important to congratulate the incoming U.S. President.”
Netanyahu was replaced as prime minister last summer after he was unable to form a governing majority in the wake of four hard-fought elections in less than two years.
The Trump administration took unprecedented steps to support Israel, including dropping objections to its settlements in the occupied West Bank and recognizing Jerusalem as its capital. After proposing a Mideast plan that was adamantly rejected by the Palestinians, the administration brokered normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab states.
Trump said his decision to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 war, helped Netanyahu ahead of Israeli elections in April 2019.
“I did it right before the election, which helped him (Netanyahu) a lot,” Trump said.
The Trump administration also withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, to which Israel had been strongly opposed. After he re-imposed U.S. sanctions that had been lifted under the deal, Iran began publicly exceeding the limits it had set on its nuclear program. Biden is now working with world powers to try to restore the agreement.
“I’ll tell you what — had I not come along I think Israel was going to be destroyed,” Trump said. “I think Israel would have been destroyed maybe by now.”
Associated Press reporter Isaac Scharf contributed to this report.
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